Stress and Information Addiction

I read an interesting definition of occupational stress yesterday which was in a summary of a book called Brain Rules:

Jimmy and Granddad Twittering on the BlackBerryThree things matter in determining whether a workplace
is stressful: the type of stress, a balance between
occupational stimulation and boredom, and the condition
of the employee’s home life. The perfect storm of
occupational stress appears to be a combination of two
malignant facts: a) a great deal is expected of you and b)
you have no control over whether you will perform
well.

I suspect that, to some extent, information addiction is born out of people wanting to control stress by trying to stay one-step-ahead. But if you look at the definition for perfect storm for occupational stress it’s more likely that information addiction will cause stress rather than alleviate it.

Let me explain what I mean.

Stress results from high expectations with no control over outcomes.

I’m sitting at my desk and checking my email every few minutes and every few minutes another email comes in and gives me something to deal with. Each one of these emails represents an expectation.

I’m available on my IM client and it keep flashing with another new message. Each flashing message is a another expectation.

I’ve now got more than enough expectation for anyone to deal with.

Here’s where the definition comes in.

My behaviour towards the messages means that I am far less likely to deal with the expectations in an effective way and soon I will have lost any control over the outcome.

It’s a bit like trying to move water by filling a bucket from running tap. The most efficient way of moving the water is to turn the tap on, fill a whole bucket, turn the tap off and then transport the bucket to the place where it’s going. The least efficient way of moving the water is to put the bucket under the tap and then to keep turning it on and off; transporting little bits between the turns. Following the little bits method we will soon feel out of control.

All of us know how to deal with the water, so why don’t we do it with the messages.

We all know that messing about with the bucket just leads to stress.

(Incidentally, the extract was from “Rule #8: Stressed Brains Don’t Learn the Same Way” which outlines how bad stress is.)

(Through a scheme at work I have access to the summaries from www.summary.com, it’s a great way of understanding the essence of a document without having to read the whole thing.)

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